Taking a stand on the issue of access to quality healthcare, New Community CEO Richard Rohrman voiced his support of a campaign that demands overhauling a deal to sell a Newark hospital to a for-profit company that’s been plagued by reports of a checkered past.
Saint Michael’s Medical Center, located a few blocks from NCC headquarters, is slated to be sold to Prime Healthcare Services. However a coalition of advocates, led by the watchdog group New Jersey Citizen Action, says the deal will negatively impact Newark residents.
“We’re very much involved in healthcare in the community,” Rohrman said at a press conference held at St. Joseph Plaza, emphasizing New Community’s reason for being concerned over the future of Saint Michael’s. He listed a host of services NCC provides ranging from the Extended Care Facility, on-site health clinics at the senior buildings and the Family Service Bureau, which provides mental and behavioral counseling and therapy to adults and youth, as examples of New Community’s investment in health care.
India Hayes Larrier, Health Care Organizer at New Jersey Citizen Action, outlined several concerns over the current deal, such as a guarantee to keep the hospital open as a full service acute care facility for more than five years, a lack of commitment from Prime to keep the hospital’s in-network status with insurance companies and roughly $190 million in debt that she said Prime refuses to assume that will be passed onto New Jersey taxpayers.
“We submit that the sale agreement, as it stands now, is not in the best interest of the community,” Larrier said. “In fact, we submit that the deal is bad on many levels and should be rejected by the Board (of Saint Michael’s Medical Center), and the State.”
A petition opposing the sale has garnered about 1,000 signatures so far, she said. New Jersey Citizen Action rallied support from elected officials including Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who spoke at the press conference, along with Essex County Freeholders Rolando Bobadilla and Rufus Johnson.
“We cannot afford to close down another institution,” Baraka said to several media outlets covering the press conference.
“It’s about helping people, it’s about healing people,” added Dr. Ahmad Yousef, a resident at University Hospital and a member of the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU, who stood with several other physicians in white coats at the event to show support of Saint Michael’s.
Saint Michael’s is a 357-bed facility known for its cardiac care as well as infectious disease treatment. The hospital was established in 1867 by the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and was the first medical institution in New Jersey to perform open-heart surgery, according to its website.